Chapter Eight: “Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It” Ruth 3:1-6
As we move into a new chapter of Ruth, we can sense a fresh wind blowing across the fields of Boaz. Change is in the air, and Naomi is the one who is putting things in motion.
1. a. Louise Pettibone Smith wrote, “Ruth and Naomi stand in the Hebrew scriptures beside David and Jonathan.” Read 1 Samuel 18:3–4 and 19:1–6 to get a sense of their brotherly bond. In what ways does their commitment to each other mirror that of Naomi and Ruth?
Just as “Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him” (1 Samuel 18:3), Ruth made a loving pledge to stay with Naomi (Ruth 1:16).
In the same way Jonathan provided for David when he “took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic” (1 Samuel 18:4), Ruth shared her grain with Naomi and made certain her mother-in-law was well fed (Ruth 2:18).
There are, of course, many ways in which these two relationships are not at all parallel—we have no one like double-minded Saul to appease in Ruth’s story—yet the mutual affection of these two women is apparent at the start of this chapter, and it surely warms our hearts.
1. b. Do you have a deep, loving relationship with another woman in your family? If you’ve always been there for each other, how have you continued to nurture your close friendship?
I love both my sisters: Sarah, who is twelve years older than me; and Mary, nine years older. (Our brothers are David, Thomas, and John. Mom and Dad went overboard with those biblical names, huh?)
My sisters and I have gone through seasons of staying in close contact, then losing touch for a few months (we live in New Jersey, North Carolina, and Kentucky, which makes getting together tricky). Still, as is often the case with siblings, we reconnect the moment we hear each other’s voices on the phone.
We’ve all turned out to be quite different—spiritually and politically in particular—yet that doesn’t diminish our love for one another. It does, however, mean that we don’t share the one thing that matters most to me: a relationship with the Lord. I will never stop praying for my dear sisters, and never stop loving them right where they are.
Talking about my sisters makes me want to stop right now and call them both. But since it’s nearly midnight, I’m thinking I’d better just keep blogging.
2. a. Ruth’s preparation for her midnight rendezvous with Boaz involves three vital rituals—bathing, anointing, and dressing—echoed in the New Testament. Our Kinsman-Redeemer wants us spiritually clean. Read John 13:5–8 and Ephesians 5:25–27. In each passage…
Who is being washed?
John 13:5–8 Peter, the disciple
Ephesians 5:25–27 The bride, the church
John 13:5–8 Jesus
Ephesians 5:25–27 Christ
Using what substance?
John 13:5–8 Water from a basin
Ephesians 5:25–27 Living water, the Word of God
And what is the outcome?
John 13:5–8 Cleanliness
Ephesians 5:25–27 Holiness
How might you experience his daily cleansing in a spiritual sense?
Nothing washes us like the Word. When we meditate on Scripture, it scrubs our mind clean of unkind thoughts, of unholy ideas. Worshipful music helps too. But it’s the grace of God, and the assurance of his forgiveness, that really cleanses us.
Check out this excerpt from my book, Really Bad Girls of the Bible:
When your skin is covered with sweat, dust, and grime, you take a bath, yes? You don’t say, “I’m too filthy to get in this tub. I’ll just have to stay grungy.” No way. You get in and get clean.
How Satan blinds us to this truth! We think we have to be “good” to deserve God’s grace. That’s like saying you have to be clean to take a bath! Dear one, the more grimy our lives are, the more we need Jesus. The dirtier your body, the better that bath feels.
—from Chapter 5 on Bathsheba
2. b. Like Ruth, we are also anointed with perfume. Read 2 Corinthians 1:21–22. As with the washing, who does the anointing? To what end?
God anoints us in the same way he anointed priests and kings, marking us for his service, claiming us as his own, filling us with the Holy Spirit, until the day when our flesh is no more, and we have new bodies altogether (can I just say, “Woo hoo!?”).
According to 2 Corinthians 2:15–16, what is the purpose of our fragrant aroma?
We smell delightful to other believers who share our perfume. But to those who have rejected Christ, we…um…stink.
I’m thinking of a fragrance I once purchased because I loved how it smelled in the store and on other people. But when I tried to wear it, I couldn’t scrub it off fast enough. It made my head throb and my stomach feel queasy. Yuck.
If that’s how non-believers respond to our spiritual perfume, it behooves us not to shove our beliefs under their noses. Believe me, they are picking up our scent. If they draw near, you can be sure it’s Christ’s fragrant aroma, and not ours, that is at work.
And how are you made equal to the task of bearing his scent?
Though we may not feel worthy, God chooses whom he chooses and anoints whom he anoints. It’s never about us. It’s always about him.
2. c. Now we’re ready to get dressed. How does Galatians 3:26–27 describe this process?
Interesting that baptism—another cleansing, watery process—is part of being “clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Instead of being covered in our sin, we’re covered in his cleanliness. It isn’t the amount of water used that determines whether we’re properly dressed. It’s an inside job, as we learn from Peter: “this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God“ (1 Peter 3:21).
What further clarification about this holy attire does Luke 24:49 add? Once again, who dresses us, and why?
Jesus dresses us once more, this time with “power from on high,” the promised Holy Spirit. Throughout the New Testament, water and the Spirit walk hand in hand. Jesus said, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).
Washed, perfumed, dressed…let’s go!
3. a. When Naomi assures Ruth, “He will tell you what to do,” we’re reminded of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, when the Lord told him to go into the city “and you will be told what you must do.” Who told Saul what to do? And who told him what to do?
Ananias told Saul what to do (Acts 9:17), but it was the Lord who first told Ananias what to do (Acts 9:10).
What advantages do you see to this God-ordained method of communication?
More than once I’ve had a godly friend make a strongly worded suggestion, and I know it’s not her idea—it’s God’s. How do I know? Because it was clear she didn’t really want to say it, and it was equally hard for me to hear it, yet it was completely in line with Scripture.
How did it benefit Ananias? And how did it help Saul?
Ananias’s faith surely increased, after hearing from the Lord in a vision. “Yes, Lord,” Ananias answered (Acts 9:10). He clearly knew Who was speaking!
As for Saul, he’d already heard the Lord’s voice on the road. Now he needed to hear from one of these believers whom he’d persecuted. Their forgiveness would assure him of God’s forgiveness. Indeed, Ananias called him “Brother Saul,” and told him, “the Lord…has sent me.” How that must have comforted the blind and befuddled Saul!
3. b. In chapter 8 I mentioned the possibility that Ruth will be told what to do, not by Boaz, but by the Lord himself. Might God be speaking through Naomi in this scene? What makes you say that?
I really do think this threshing floor scenario was God’s idea. Here’s why: it ran counter to the cultural norm, it elevated Ruth’s trust in God to a whole new level, and though Naomi couldn’t be certain of the outcome, God could.
If you’ve ever had a sense of the Holy Spirit leading you as you spoke to someone, what convinced you it was the Lord’s words and not your own?
Earlier this month I was praying with two friends whom I hadn’t seen in ages. We were specifically asking the Lord what we needed to lay down in our lives. I blurted something out almost against my will, fearing it might hurt my friend’s feelings. She immediately took it to heart, and the other friend said, “You have no idea, Liz, what a timely word that is for her.” Whew.
When a word comes from the Spirit and not from our own flesh—not born of jealousy or envy or fear or unkindness—and when it’s prompted by love and compassion, that’s almost certainly God at work.
3. c. Whoever tells Ruth what she must do, her next move requires great courage, as she embarks on “a sacred journey, a ritual descent into darkness and danger.” What’s the scariest, holiest thing you’ve ever done?
I should have known better than to ask for the greatest example of something. It makes us think too hard! Since it’s my question, I will gladly accept any scary, holy thing that pops into your mind.
Don’t laugh, but for me, it’s this Bible Study Blog. If you’ve been following along each week, you know I’m not holding anything back. I just keep putting stuff out there, hoping it helps, and trying not to be afraid.
I often say this on the platform and mean it with all my heart: “It doesn’t matter what you think of Lizzie. It only matters what you think of Jesus.”
How did you find the strength to go forward? And what was the result of your obedience?
The strength not only comes from the Lord; it also comes from you. Reading your comments each week gives me the courage to keep going, to let the clock spin past midnight, to push myself to be honest with you, and with the Lord.
As for the result, I’ll leave that in God’s hands. If you are digging deeper into his Word for the rich truths he has planted there, then every hour is well spent.
I’d love to hear your answer to our closing question: What’s the most memorable truth you’ve learned from this week’s lesson?
See you next Wednesday for Chapter Nine, when we move onto the threshing floor…oh!
Your sister, Liz